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College prepares to unveil new website

Marketing Director Greg Harris views the new college website from his office.
Photo by Saul Rodriguez.

Chemeketa students will have more to look forward to this winter than just candy canes and sweater weather. After nearly three years of work, Chemeketa’s new public website is almost here.

Headed by Marketing Director Greg Harris, the idea for the switch came from concerns regarding several problems with the previous site. One glaring issue was the poor navigational system, which Harris said left valuable information buried and difficult to access. In the long term, Harris hopes that the modern design and helpful innovative features won’t just appeal to Chemeketa’s general audiences, but also garner traffic from nontraditional users.

“The website is a really important asset for the college in introducing Chemeketa to people outside of the community, which I think is why this investment in time and energy was worthwhile,” Harris said. “It’s so important in communicating what Chemeketa’s all about.”

Indeed, Harris and his team have put a lot of effort into the project. It took four writers, including Harris and the two other people in his department, Meagan Gallop and Robert LaHue, three to four months just to revise the copy and match thousands of pages with the fresh templates. More revisions are to be made up until the release date.

As for the graphic design aspect, two years passed before Chemeketa could secure a web development firm to work with them. During this time, the department also debated whether the site should build it in-house instead. However, in April 2016, a company from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, Barkley-REI, took the job. From there, the pieces started falling into place.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Harris said. Despite the wait, however, his team never doubted that the website would pan out.

“There was no real moment of truth,” he said. “Once we committed to it, and once we hired the partners… that we needed to collaborate with, it was all systems go. And things have gone pretty smoothly. There have been no catastrophes.”

The new site was made available to Chemeketa employees in early October. Harris and his team wanted all departments to be fully briefed on the new interface, and to have the opportunity to suggest any corrections the site may need before it launched. Eventually, more than 100 employees will have access to the site’s administrative controls, allowing the people with the most knowledge to keep their designated pages updated and relevant.

One of Harris’s proudest accomplishments was the addition of Chemeketa’s Program Finder, a source for future students and current attendees whose career paths are still unknown. Users can now explore the college’s majors and programs, and customize their search based on their interests.

“Each of these pages will tell you what kind of salary you should expect … why you should choose this program or class … what you’ll learn … [and] what you do if you end up getting that credential,” Harris said. “It’s really career focused. Really trying to help students figure out what’s next for them.”

Other features include front page student profiles, an enhanced photo and video platform, and specified navigational bars for the various types of site visitors.

And then there is the overall design itself.

A noticeable change is, of course, the color scheme. Yellows, oranges, greens, and blues have replaced the old brown palette, an upgrade Harris said gives the website a more contemporary look. Harris and his department sought inspiration from all different types of online platforms, striving to branch out from the tired design formula common among educational institute websites.

“We felt like future students and our audience spend a lot of time on the internet, and why would we try to look like other [schools]?” Harris said. “That was the direction we gave the design firm, is ‘Don’t feel like you have to make us look like the best community college site in the nation. Help us look like one of the coolest websites anyone would visit.’”

Still, the marketing department did want to stay true to Chemeketa’s roots. Students remain the college’s primary focus, and even with all the advancements made in terms of appearance, if this value wasn’t emphasized, the website wouldn’t be authentically Chemeketa.

That is why Barkley-REI suggested student profiles. Accompanied by portrait shots of their respective subjects, some of these short columns are featured on the main page. They relay inspiring stories about people who were once enrolled, or are currently enrolled, at the college. As of now, there are only six profiles, but Harris said he and his team plan to add more in the future.

Just like the student profiles, the overall site itself is a work-in-progress. After the hundreds of hours spent writing, designing, and editing, Harris and his team are still determined to keep up the renovations.

“People come to Chemeketa as a way to get to a destination, towards a career, a profession, so we want to give them information relevant to that,” Harris said.

Students who are interested in sharing their experiences at Chemeketa, or simply want to give feedback on the website, are encouraged to contact Ed Harris in the marketing department in Bldg. 2-208. The new website is expected to launch sometime in the coming weeks.